Police intensify security, gun ban ahead of polls

CAGAYAN DE ORO. The chief of Cagayan de Oro City Police Office, Police Colonel Nelson Aganon, presents to the media on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, various firearms that were confiscated at checkpoints and during police operations to implement the gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections. (Photo by Alwen Saliring)

IN RESPONSE to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) "Category Red" alert for Mindanao on top of the extended Martial Law declaration, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Cagayan de Oro City as well as throughout Northern Mindanao region intensified enforcement of its security measures and the election gun ban.

The Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) has confiscated a total of 43 loose firearms through the police's "Oplan Katok (Operation Knock)."

Records from Cocpo showed some 35 unrenewed assorted long and short guns were voluntarily handed over by private gun owners to the authorities through the "Oplan Katok" since the election period started in January.

The firearms were presented before the media in a press briefing Wednesday, April 3.

The Oplan Katok is a program of Cocpo where uniformed officers knock on the doors of gun owners with delinquent registration and convince them to renew their licenses or surrender their guns to the nearest police station for safekeeping.

Cocpo is set to account for a total of 8,166 unrenewed guns in the city. The local police have already conducted 5,668 Oplan Katok operations where permits involving 121 firearms were renewed after the owners were told to do so.

Police Col. Nelson Aganon, city police director, said gun owners who failed to surrender their unrenewed guns will face charges and will be subjected to police operations against illegally possession of firearms.

"The registration of the firearm shall be renewed every four years. Failure to renew the registration of the firearm on or before the date of expiration shall cause the revocation of the license. The said firearm shall be confiscated or forfeited in favor of the government after due process," Aganon said.

Under the firearms law, unlawful gun owners are penalized with six to 12 years of imprisonment up to reclusion perpetua depending on the classification of firearm.

"We remind the firearms holders including candidates for the May elections to update the license of their guns as non-compliance of the same is tantamount to criminal act," Aganon said.

On the other hand, a total of 17 firearms, 32 bladed weapons, and 179 assorted ammunition were seized in violation of the Comelec gun ban through police checkpoints in the city.

Police also arrested 51 violators, who are now facing charges in court.

In Northern Mindanao

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office in Northern Mindanao (PRO-10) is set to augment around 400 policemen in every province in the region ahead of the May 13 polls.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Surki Sereñas, PRO-Northern Mindanao spokesperson, said Camp Alagar would distribute around 300 to 400 members of the Regional Police Mobile Force in Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental and Bukidnon.

Sereñas said they would also deploy more personnel in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan if the need arises.

"Naa tay deployment pero ga adjust pa ta kay depende man kung mag-need sila dugang personnel. Ang average nga atong mahatag is 300 to 400 (we have a deployment but we are still adjusting because it depends on the need, and additional personnel. The average we can give is around 300 to 400)," Serenas said.

He also said the augmentation from the regional mobile forces are more on reserve and reactionary forces especially for emergency situations.

The PRO-Northern Mindanao has assured that security measures for the midterm election are in place.

Sereñas also said strict implementation of security inspections will continue across the region to prevent lawless elements from sowing terror and criminality.

Lanao Norte political feud

But even before PRO-10 can deploy additional security, four persons were wounded after supporters of two candidates running for mayor in the town of Salvador in Lanao del Norte clashed at past 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 3.

According to local reports, the two candidates already have a long standing political feud.

They are Farhanie Ampaso Tawantawan, who is running for mayor under the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas – Hugpong Ng Pagbabago, and Bebot Umpa, who is also running for mayor under Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP Laban). Both claimed to be aligned with the Duterte administration.

During the 2016 election campaign, the two groups were also involved in a gunfight that resulted in the death of Umpa’s mother.


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